Illegal camerawork at The Groucho Club:

was it a missing link in the Hackgate saga?

On the trail of Groucho members, Newscorpers, and Shadow Ministers

The story so far: we know that the Groucho Club run by JHJ Lewis indulged in unregulated surveillance. We know that a website using the same domain and name as The Groucho was an active paedophile linking forum for at least a year. We know that Mr Lewis has donated a probable six-figure sum over time to the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. We know that Lewis gave Hunt £4000 to visit New York, where he hob-knobbed with the Murdoch media elite. We know that ten days later, James Murdoch met David Cameron and confirmed that the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper would support the Conservative Party in the forthcoming election. And we know that Lewis was in charge of a major Tory paper on UK Tourism, one in which the Prime Minister took a keen personal interest. Today, in Episode Three of the Hunt-Groucho Saga, The Slog discusses what the chances are of these being significant, or simply coincidental, connections.
On 21st September 2009, a man described as having a London accent was disturbed attaching an electronic phone tap onto the telephone line at the filmmaker Tyrone Murphy’s Newport home. The police in Newport attended the scene after Murphy (a serial investigator of all things Groucho) disturbed the culprit and chased him off. Newport Plod seized electronic bugging equipment and tools left behind by the perpetrator as he fled. They also analysed CCTV footage of the incident, but nothing came of it.
Mr Murphy’s curiosity had been aroused over time by the seemingly generous appointment of surveillance cameras in The Groucho Club. As a result, he wrote about it in a book due for publication in 2009. On hearing of the book’s content, the Groucho Club took out an injunction against its publication, and sued Tyrone Murphy for libel. But at the very last minute, Lewis’s Club managers issued a discontinuance notice on the 3rd November 2009. That is, they accepted that their case against the Irish investigator had collapsed.
The Groucho’s libel case was blown out of the water by a statement from one of the its own managers (with copious exhibits that included internal e mails and CCTV footage from the club). In a nutshell, it supported Murphy’s contention that further cameras had been secretly installed at the Groucho, and these lacked any proper registration with the authorities as required under the Data Protection Act.
But one mystery remains as unsolved as the motivation behind Lewis’s steadfast support for his protege Jeremy Hunt: why did the Groucho Club need all these additional cameras following the antics of its members 24/7?
It’s possible I have stumbled on the explanation. It’s possible, in fact, that the entire celeb movement to stop the Newscorp celeb hacking culture is tied up in all this. It is possible – but in no way  proven – that one motive was blackmail. Pause for breath, and read on.

A brief throat-clearing to start.
As the odd brainless troll has suggested here from time to time, yes, I used to be one of those despicable admen who helped sell things that created jobs and kept the consumption economy going. For a year in the 1980s I was the part-owner of an ad agency, Aspect Hill Holliday, with offices – literally – next door to the Groucho Club. I never joined and wasn’t asked to, but given that art directors and writers I knew well were members, I must’ve lunched and had meetings there 50 or 60 times over the years. When I left London and advertising, the Groucho was a natural place to meet up. In the last five years I’ve probably been a bit pissed and well-fed a dozen times or more there. And no, I’ve never snorted coke in my life.
I first heard about phone hacking at the Groucho Club – in the bar – during one late evening session there in Spring 2008. A celebrity who has since been a prominent mover against Murdoch was off his face on some marginally tolerated substance or other, and mouthing off to a lesser-known luminary about “the Screws (News of the World) c**ts” and how they were “going to get theirs”. There was also much drug-fuelled eye-swivelling and further banter about “tapping my phone”. It wasn’t until I’d had my ear stretching over to their table for ten minutes that it dawned on me they were talking about mobile phones and voice messaging. As his chin slumped towards his chest, the main mover in the conversation said “the f**kers aren’t gonna know what’s hit them”. What he actually pronunced was “zefuerzznogonknowassitem”, but I thought you’d find the translation helpful.
So my interest in nefarious Newscorpers began at that time, and spawned the coverage you can read about in full at HACKGATE.
A senior BBC comic’s agent said this to me in 2011:
“The celeb clique against Murdoch was born at the Groucho. Steve Coogan was a prime mover, but there were others. There was a poker school there. I think Steve played in it. Steve was, shall we say, a bit of a fan of mind-alteration at the time”.
I can personally confirm Coogan’s gambling interest. While waiting for a late friend (Groucho member Graham Hinton – Graham is always late) in the Groucho reception one October night in 2009, Coogan walked in wearing dark glasses, and clearly announced himself, “Hi, Steve Coogan – I’m here for the poker”. So either Steve is into S&M colonic irrigation, or he was there for a game of cards.
The Groucho Club has always maintained that it had only two surveillance cameras there, purely for the protection of its clients: but investigator Tyrone Murphy disputes this…and his victory in Court would tend to support his version of events.
“We have the fitters names and the locations,” he alleges, “but we never needed them. Their case collapsed because it was horsesh*t. To my certain knowledge they had at least two more cameras. My assumption was always that these were being used to spy on members and provide evidence of their peccadillos, but nobody could prove that now. I think the cameras were hastily ripped out after the case.”
Seems a bit odd to me to rip them out if they were solely for client protection. Also seems even odder to tell the Judge in Murphy’s Newport Court Case that they complied with Data Protection Act regulations, when they very clearly didn’t. Even odder still is that, according to sources involved in the case, within ten days of telling the judge they were DPA approved, the Groucho Club applied to have them approved. And then ripped them out.

There may, however, be tracks on this trail leading elsewhere. And the number of tracks on the trail may have confused some celebs as to the source of information about them. At the Leveson Enquiry, Steve Coogan for example talks about a dinner he had with a journalist. It was intimated to him that a conversation about his kids with the journalist was off the record. Details then appeared in short order in a Sunday Times article….a Murdoch newspaper.
Coogan assumed the hack had betrayed the confidence. But was he recorded by others….and the information passed on?
I have spoken to several celebrities and their agents over the last three years about their tabloid dealings. All but one of them (this group doesn’t include Coogan, by the way) trod warily about blowing the whistle on what they suspected as phone-hacking because they had been threatened with cocaine use exposure. The agent of one of these – a well-known model and TV personality – told me last Tuesday, “[She] was a regular at The Groucho. It had never occurred to me before that there might be visual evidence of substance abuse. But [name] was out of control at the time. She admits that, and she is now clean. But she spent a lot of time ingesting at The Groucho. Almost everyone did. And yes, she was told to cooperate or else her Coke habit would be splashed…but she’s still too scared to say that on the record.”
I can vouch for the level of white powder inhaled at the club over the years. I thought it completely normal in the late 1990s to go to the downstairs loo there and be deafened by the sound of sniffing. Was it a mystery virus, I would often wonder. It may well have been: I couldn’t possibly comment. But the current head of one massive international ad agency yesterday confirmed many similar experiences. “There was,” he observed, “a tendency after about nine pm for conversation to be like an Olympic 100 metres final”. As a comment threader here noted yesterday, “The Snooker Room was known as the Peruvian procurement office”.


Newscorp tabloids thrive on two things: not getting caught, and threatening those who try to reveal the depths of their illegal depravity when intruding into a citizen’s private space. What the additional and unregistered system of surveillance at the Groucho Club potentially provided was the  means to keep dozens of favourite tabloid targets under convenient, secret surveillance – in an environment where they felt safe breaking the law…or talking about revenge on Murdoch.
I do not accuse the Groucho management of using it to that end, because I cannot prove it: the connection may be entirely innocent and simply a disturbing coincidence. But did Mr JHJ Lewis the obsessively supportive bankroller of Jeremy Hunt wanted the increased media influence his chum the Shadow Culture Secretary was soon to get? We already know that he gave Mr Hunt £4,000 to go to New York. To meet with three Newscorp companies. And have several meetings with James Murdoch.
Tot up his total donations to the career of Jeremy Hunt, and we are talking, probably, a six-figure sum.
Perry Mason would thus have added motive to means on that basis. But Perry Mason was merely a figment of Earle Stanley Gardner’s fertile Courtroom imagination, and not to be taken seriously in the real world. John Lewis OBE, a loyal servant of the Arts, has given dozens of famous Groucho members many years of eclectic enjoyment on his premises, and he should not be accused lightly. No Top Man – not Lord Green at HSBC, not Peter Sands at Standard Chartered, not even David Cameron in Downing Street – can be expected to know everything his workers are getting up to.
I’d be interested to know, however, what evidence those still in charge at the Groucho could bring forward to refute the perhaps scurrilous allegation that they used the former illegal surveillance system for nefarious ends. And I remain interested in them (or anyone else writing to jawslog@gmail.com) who can set my mind at rest once and for all about these remaining questions:
1. Why has John Henry James Lewis given Jeremy Hunt so much walking-around money over the years? Observe the following from the MP’s own Parliamentary declaration of interest file:
Overseas visits: 15-20 August, to Beijing, China, to the Olympic Games, funded by donations my office receives from Mr John Lewis, of Dorset  2 October 2008
18 June 2009 two tickets to a gala performance of la Traviata at the Royal Opera House, as guests of the Royal Opera House. Name of donor: Mr John Lewis
August 2009: fact-finding visit to New York. Name of donor: Mr John Lewis of Dorset.
Sponsorship or financial or material support: Financial support for my office costs from: Hotcourses* Ltd; an educational publisher. Mr John Lewis, Dorset (personal donation)
*A Slogger wag suggested yesterday that the NHS should be renamed the National Hotcourses Service. Amusing, I thought.
2. Why did Lewis’s daughter Daisy – then in her early twenties – give Mr Hunt £5,000? She is described in one or two places as “a unemployed Soho socialite”…so it would be odd indeed if she never attended her father’s club. Is she still in the habit of going there, or is she a young person of diffferent habits?
3. Why did The Sun (and the Sunday Mirror while we’re at it, dear Labour Party) feel so safe in manipulating celebs? Was it because they could prove Class-A drugs misuse?
4. Why has David Cameron promoted Jeremy Hunt to be Health Secretary….a man who some at high levels in the Conservative Party told him was an insanely unsafe appointment? They are the same people who told him over and over not to hire Andy Coulson. We now know why Mr Cameron ignored them. Do similar motives apply here?
This point deserves a degree of labouring. Ian Dunt of the politicsuk website described the elevation as ‘a move which stunned Westminster insiders. The beleaguered media secretary was expected to lose his job after he was found to have communicated closely with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp while making a quasi-judicial decision on the BSkyB takeover.’ Even the normally pro-Tory Right Daily Telegraph wrote, ‘Mr Hunt has already been the subject of jokes about his links with the Murdoch family over his handling of the BSkyB bid, with some quipping that he may sell off the NHS to NewsCorp. Others have questioned if Mr Hunt should be in government at all, given his record in the Culture post, let alone given one of the most high profile and tricky briefs in Whitehall.’ One Tory backbencher (in the Centre on most issues) told me two days ago, “It’s as if Cameron has a death wish. It is quite inexplicable. But it has happened. Frankly, it’s a gift to the other side. There were lots of rolling eyes when the news was confirmed.”
Why give yourself such a potentially explosive problem if you are already a PM under siege? Are there any clues at all so far in this Slog series on the Groucho, and Mr John Lewis’s influence within the Conservative Party, as to why the former Culture Secretary seems to be toxic, and yet somehow invulnerable?
While nobody should see these questions as a form of accusation, neither should they dismiss them as crackpot conspiracy bollocks. I would prefer to call it informed speculation. There have been question marks over some of the actions of the Groucho Club Management, Jeremy Hunt, JHJ Lewis and David Cameron over the years. It is perfectly right and proper in a free society to raise further questions if (a) there might be a connection to other illegal media surveillance and (b) it allows those involved to use the shiny blade of truth to prove those links utterly false.

Did you miss Episode 1 and Episode 2 of the Hunt-Groucho exposé? Follow the foregoing links now.


Snapshot from the life of a millionaire trougher: JULY 2008 – MARCH 2009:

These are freebies Jeremy Hunt received as Shadow Culture Minister during that period…

Gifts, benefits and hospitality (UK): The FA provide me with tickets and hospitality at various football matches.
Registered 21 November 2008 20 February 2008, two tickets to the Brit Awards as guests of the BPI
21 November 2008 Ticket for BAFTA Awards, as guest of ITV. 
31 May 2008, two tickets for Britain’s Got Talent Final, as guests of ITV.
2 July 2008, two tickets for Wimbledon Men’s Semi-Final, as guests of the LTA. 
25 January 2009, in the course of an otherwise unregistrable visit I was upgraded from Premium Economy to Upper Class by Virgin Atlantic on a return flight from Nairobi.
Donation of ticket for me to attend the Conservative Party’s Summer Party on 17 June 2009. Payment for ticket, to value of £800, made directly to the Conservative Party.
24 March 2009, helicopter travel from London to Bristol provided by Lord Ashcroft.
8 February 2009, one ticket for BAFTA Awards, as guest of Pinewood.
18 February 2009, two tickets for Brit Awards, as guests of BPI.
21 March 2009, one ticket for England v Scotland rugby match at Twickenham, as guest of RBS.
© This series and The Slog content John Ward, 2010-2012

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45 thoughts on “Illegal camerawork at The Groucho Club:”

  1. Pingback: John Ward – Illegal Camerawork At The Groucho Club : Was It A Missing Link In The Hackgate Saga? – 6 September 2012 | Lucas 2012 Infos
    I would say, yes, most definitely. Angmering, a little village close by to me (affluent) is awash with the stuff, ironically it is harder to purchase paracetemol in Sainsburys….
    It would also explain why things are as they are, wouldn’t it?
    It’s a bad drug, no mistake.

    • KFC, Last year Hubby and I had bad backs…..I had slipped 2 discs (all that gardening) and he had tweaked his back yet again ( weak after several years’ heavy duty farming)…..so we were both on max Ibruprofen a day, as per Dr’s and chiropractors advice. (for quite some weeks).
      As shelling out to the latter of the 2 was bankrupting us, our choice of supply for the medication was any of the major supermarket chains/Lidl/Aldi as an own brand packet was in the 20-30p range at the time. We were accosted on one occasion in Aldi for buying 2 packets each (the maximum allowed), as separate purchases, but because we were seen talking and the till assistant decided (quite rightly) that we were together, it was ‘against rules’ so we had to forfeit 2 packets. Not living very close to any supermarket and being fairly incapacitated, having to drive daily to acquire said medication was a bit inconvenient to say the least!
      It seems pain relief for the needy is far harder to secure than ‘coke’, incase we self harm !!??!
      Needless to say, we now have enough of the medication to sink a battleship, as EVERY shopping trip requires 2 packets to be compulsarily added to the list of needs, ‘just incase’ we find ourselves in the situation again.
      Cocaine, unregulated and quality unguaranteed….a social choice for those with more money than brains. I say if you need to chill, get in the garden!
      But then again, most of the so-called elite probably have so many surveillance cameras and so little garden space, getting peace and quiet is out of the question. Would feel sorry for them if my contempt didn’t over-ride most other emotions!
      Bad, indeed!

      • Joanna
        Australia is even worse. I went in and asked for a pack of paracetamol, and spent 5 mins being persuaded that garana root or something was more natural. Grudgingly, she gave me the pack with the words, “Have you taken these before?”

      • John, in Australia you can buy as much Paracetamol as you like – its on the supermarket shelves.
        What you encountered at the Australian Chemists shop was a combination of Two things (1) Good old fashioned selling (Have you tried this? Would you like a generic brand of paracetamol which is cheaper than Panadol?)
        and (2) a LEGAL REQUIREMENT TO INFORM about what the product does and its possible side effects which always starts with “Have you used this product before”, a simple “Yes” cuts off the flow, otherwise they will blather on for minutes about the stuff.
        Where you WILL perhaps get checked is if you want to buy anything containing codeine or pseudoephidrine as both of these are precursors to amphetamine manufacture and the numpties buy the stuff in quantity if they can. However if you don’t look like a scruffy drug dealer you can buy what you need with no questions asked.

    • There were ‘rumblings’ amongst some forces staff that they were sure that they were emroilled in a ‘drug war’ in so far as ‘protecting’ some areas which was known as ‘Toxic’. Some suggested that they are there to protect the safe movement of drug smugglers and not innocent women and children. On that subject- the use of women and children to sheild drug movement is well known and is causing fustration within certain camps. The country is a third world-9 millenium out of date… leave it, and let it die. Ofcourse the ‘racist’ stick with be used to beat me when I say again I do not believe that it is a coincidence of increase in drug abuse and increase in Asian population to this country. And some very wealthy ones who could not produce how they came about such wealth… elmer fudd – sorry Mohammed al fyed comes to mind. “Imports and exports” not closely watched as we unsuspecting Citizens thought. The upper classes are now ‘involved’ so it is a cultural thing lovey and not before long as with all forbidden substances the black market thrives with DIRE consequenses! watch the Mafia from various countries around the world -take over your country…Oh Sorry It’s NOT our country we are now multicultural and minorities have a say too….I have only two words…..

  3. Given that Cameron has waited over 2 years for his reshuffle,his security people have had plenty of time to tell him the truth about his Cabinet and other ‘colleagues’.It defies belief that he would risk everything on the appointment of Jeremy Hotcourses to be head of the soon to be rebranded NHS,if there was more sh-t out there.At the back of Dave’s mind is the one term premier,Edward Heath.

    • Never under-estimate the hubris of politicians – and cocaine users, of course. Both think they are invincible, of inestimably superior intelligence, attractiveness and untouchable. At least cocaine users only think so while high, unlike politicians.

      • That is EXACTLY what I was thinking FOR A VERY LONG TIME….damnthemancam has never ‘admitted’ to his accuser’s of his *cough* “alleged” sniffing habit.

  4. I can only say two words,”TRAPWIRE”and”TARTAN”,http://rt.com/usa/news/trapwire-abraxas-cubic-surveillance-251/
    Considering the encryption signals around Soho,attracted a lot of interest from Russian and Chinese geekdom in 2008,why?The encryption was of military strength and only another country could break it-so the thinking goes.Not sure if it was ever broken.
    Just a suggestion,as to why the media has been so silent on our economic collapse,perhaps they are being blackmailed and not just by bankers.
    Mr Murdoch has had an interest with Chinese geekdom,his Chinese division even made a program about it(will find link).
    Generally,our elite are unaware of the depth of surveillance from outside government and their own government-the sophistication is breathtaking and much of the programs and IT,come from companies with a former Eastern bloc member on the board.
    Fox TV in the US even used Glenn Beck to “suggest”that Congress come and spill the beans with impunity-so far.
    The materials on record must be devastating!

    • Interesting link.
      “Our analysts, mathematicians and computer scientists are continually exploring new quantification, mining and visualization techniques in order to better analyze social networks.”
      So the “Quant’s” are at it again.
      Some of us are doomed!

  5. And we also know that JHJ Lewis made donations and offered financial support to other Tories including David Davis, who JW admires so much. Perhaps JW could direct his powers of investigation towards that?

    • Sorry True_Belle, had to smile a bit at that one as I remembered one particular Cpl RM performing a dance involving lit newspapers (won’t go into detail – it’s not for the faint-hearted) after downing a positively heroic quantity of ale. Aye .. such discipline 🙂
      But your point stands. Self-discipline is a rare commodity these days – particularly in the corridors of Westminster, it seems to me.

      • Caratacus
        If you are referring to farts that could light a small town- well, I was a Naval nurse many many years ago- so I have witnessed the end results – skin grafted bums and more!
        This Westminster cabinet of wide boys needs to read up on their Parliamentary Standards now that the public have learned to BOO very loudly.

  6. If these suspicions be true there is probably a money trail running back from the club, or someone connected to it, to Newscorp. They wouldn’t spy on the members for free. They’d be selling the dirt somewhere. Shouldn’t be too hard for the law to find it if they’re willing to look.

    • I suspect the clue lies in the last few words, “…if they’re willing to look “.
      As the upper echelons of the ‘law’ will also feature, they have an in-built disincentive to look too hard, or to look at all. (Remember the cosy links between the Met and News International ?)

  7. John this is you at your brilliant best!. This sort of journalism just isn’t avaliable to people like me. And now we know why, it all makes sense.
    Hunt and the NHS – what a corker-surley not! I do wish we had the capacity to follow his every move (please god let someone be really interested to do this). We should pay particular interest to Hunts new ‘bessy mates’ to judge what IS going to happen to the NHS under his *watchfull sneeky,rose coloured eyes! I fear the end is Nigh…Now back to important government issues of the day- As soon as I have a house ( that is ground level) and the Money, I will build me a nice extention to help do my bit to kick start the economy….Oh sht doesn’t apply in Scotland D’oh!
    Space cadettes running the Country ‘who’d a thunk it.

  8. Thinking time again……………
    Suppose you want to ‘place’ the next leader of the Conservative party. How would you do it ?
    I would groom ‘the next leader’ to be so unacceptable to the voting membership that when the time comes – the ‘real’ placeman who has been left to look moderately sensible and intelligent against some ‘big hitter’ clopper like ‘Hunt the *unt’ gives you the man in the big chair that you actually wanted to get there………Cameron steps down before the next election (or is back stabbed by the ‘party’), new leader rises like a pheonix promising higher longer faster and ‘bobs yer aunty’ the electorate vote for plonker number 2 because ‘he will be different and no-one could be worse than Camerloon’. The braindead popularity of Ed (the talking horse) Microbrain (so soon) after being a rancid part of the ‘governing party elite’ who took the country down to unheard of levels of lunacy, foolishness and corruption, displays how gullible for the ‘new start’ message the braindead and X-factored-out public have become.

    • Or maybe it was to decoy the ‘people’ from taking much notice of the (if I had done it, I’d be called a) ‘crook’ Laws being brought back. Whatever it is, it is not for the benefit of the electorate.

  9. Wow. I’m new to the blog so I didn’t know a lot of “the story so far”. This was a fascinating read. Really looking forward to that article on coke usage if it’s anywhere near as interesting as this one – and sounds like it will be!

  10. Booze Fags and cannabis can be taken alongside with a normal lifestyle.
    Coke cannot ,these people must have one shit of a bad head every morning ,the dead give away to a bad come down is the shades.
    Oh and its really bad for your heart, I mean really bad.
    See a celebrity heart attack its probably a Coke induced one.
    So how does all this coke get here totally undetected eh?
    Coke has friends in high places.
    The ones who get busted are not in that group.

  11. Information suppressed can be much more valuable to the supresser if it can be used as leverage than articles put out in tabloids. The really interesting stories to come out of the NOTW (inter alia) hacking cases are likely to be the ones that haven’t appeared.
    Interestingly it appears that “La Mensch”, in addition to looking after her family and opening another business in the USA, has now found time to write for The Times – shades of Andy Hayman et al?
    And then there’s the case of Grant Shapps or is it Michael Green or even ‘Chuck Champion’ of howtopickupwomennow.com?
    Great Britain gets more like Little Britain everyday.

  12. We have an interesting story in the (free) Universal Film Magazine about an international media organization paying the Taliban £100,000 in cash to the Taliban to get full access for a documentary. Is this treason? Will the heads of this organization get arrested in the UK and in the USA? http://www.ufmag.org

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